Boys Basketball: Proviso East powers past Rockford AuburnKeith Carter of Proviso East goes up against Rockford Auburn defenders Tramel Rideout (right) and Fred VanVleet (left). Patrick Gleason ~ For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 16, 2012 10:26PM
PEORIA -- Amid the frenzy and hyperactivity, Sterling Brown was calm and collected. With the rest of Proviso East out of sync, Brown provided a necessary structure and focal point.
“I wanted to come out aggressive,” the 6-5 junior forward said. “I had seen the guards were struggling a little bit and I wanted get my team in a rhythm like [the guards] usually do.”
Brown posted a double-double with 13 points and 15 rebounds and helped the unbeaten Pirates find their way offensively and defensively in Proviso East’s 55-45 win over Rockford Auburn in a Class 4A state semifinal Friday night at Carver Arena.
The Pirates (32-0) advance to their first state title appearance since the 1992 team finished 33-0 in winning the Class AA state championship.
Brown added two blocks and a steal. Brown was the only Pirate to score during a bizarre first quarter that saw the teams combine for 36 possessions though score only six points. Thanks to Brown, Proviso East led 4-2 after the first quarter.
Proviso East defeated Auburn 75-56 in the semifinals of the Proviso West Holiday tournament. That game featured a racehorse style. The players duplicated that game’s energy, but without the offensive efficiency or fluid execution.
“We gutted it through,” first-year Proviso East coach Donnie Boyce said. “For a lot of these young kids, stepping on the big stage, we got rattled a little bit, and you have to credit Rockford’s defense. They did a good job of pressing us and creating early first half turnovers.”
Senior guard Paris Burns overcame a difficult start to lead the Pirates with 14 points. Like Brown, he converted 6-11 from the field. Take away the combined 12-23 from Brown and Burns, the Pirates shot just 10-35 from the floor.
“I had the jitterbugs at the start of the game, but coach Donnie just got me to settle down,” Burns said. He scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half.
“This can be a daunting atmosphere,” Boyce said. The former Pirates‘ star who led Proviso East to the 1991 Class AA state title has and ease and comfort with his players. “I tried to relate to them some of my experiences, and I just told them, ‘Don‘t be nervous,’ and try to keep calm.”
Star senior guard Keith Carter shot just 2-12 from the floor in scoring six points. He made his presence felt in other ways. He ended the first half with a beautiful floater for a 20-13 Proviso East lead at the break.
“In that second quarter, Proviso East did a very good job of taking advantage of our mistakes and really taking it to us,” Auburn coach Bryan Ott said. “Looking [at the statistics] we had 24 turnovers and it’s been five or six years since we’ve had that many turnovers in a game.”
Carter also had important advice for his cousin, sophomore long-range specialist Jevon Carter, who hit three three-pointers in adding nine points in 11 minutes off the bench. “I just told him to relax, that it was like a sophomore game, only a little quicker,” Keith Carter said.
Proviso East closed out the first half with a 9-2 run. “In that second quarter, Proviso East did a very good job of taking advantage of our mistakes and really taking it to us,” Auburn coach Bryan Ott said.
Brown’s dunk fueled a second half opening 6-0 burst for the team’s first double-digit lead.
Carter recorded six rebounds, three assists and two steals. Most important, he shadowed the every move of Auburn (31-3) star guard Fred Van Vleet. The Wichita State-recruit scored 12 of his game-high 18 points in the fourth quarter. He keyed an explosive run that narrowed a 20-point Pirates’ lead to just seven with just under two minutes to play.
“He just willed them back into the game like he has the whole playoffs,” Boyce said.
With the lead down to seven, Carter converted two free throws and Burns fed his counterpart, Paris Lee, for his only basket of the game that stretched the lead back to double-digits.
“Proviso East showed there’s a reason they are 32-0,” Ott said.